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Saturday October 8th saw the latest in Thomas Hardye's Family Festival of Science events attended by over a thousand people of all ages. As always the emphasis was on showing that science can be fun and exciting. Activities were designed to appeal to all ages, so that children could collaborate with older siblings, parents and grandparents.
Many of the activities came from Thomas Hardye students and staff and showcased some of their STEM club work. We were particularly proud to show off our GENEsis Laboratory work, looking at how ticks carry Lyme disease. Our students have worked in collaboration with the University of Exeter on a Royal Society Partnership Grant research project.
However, days such as this would not be possible without the active involvement of local and national organisations, enthusiastic individuals and ambassadors from industry. Thomas Hardye is very fortunate in having very good relationships with many professional scientists who give their time to enrich the science that our students experience. Organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, Farming and Countryside Education, Urban Heath Partnership, Litter Free Coast and Sea and Dorset's Community Energy Team were on hand to demonstrate aspects of Dorset life in ways that even the youngest could understand. First-time attendees included local companies such as Wessex Water and QinetiQ with the former showing how farming and industry can affect local rivers and the environment and the latter running ‘design and build a boat’ and ‘make and test a metal detector’ challenges, and explaining how earthquakes happen and are recorded. Biotrack too came along from Wareham and invited children to have a go at hunting teddy bears hiding in the grounds using commercial radio-tracking equipment.
Our school also enjoys very close partnerships with the University of Southampton and Bournemouth University. Staff and students from both establishments came along to share their expertise and enthusiasm with our visitors. The ever popular Space Dome from the University of Southampton, supported by the Ogden Trust delighted with 4 astro-shows and the university’s research showcase offered four nature and environment themed activities including ‘making grass hedgehogs’. Bournemouth University provided an insight into life under the microscope in celebration of Biology Week and a Martian Robotics challenge.
In two Earth Science Week themed rooms, the school’s Jurassic Explorer’s club was supported by The Geological Society, Junior Geo and the Jurassic Coast Trust team, with activities ranging from fossil hunting to face-painting, making landforms with Lego and learning about the wonderful World Heritage Site coastline of Devon and Dorset. In the 'Physics Busking' room, passers-by had a go at a range of small fun experiments, courtesy of the Institute of Physics, University of Southampton and ambassadors from industry. The British Mycological Society and our own Art Department combined to celebrate The Big Draw by getting visitors to create artwork inspired by displays on themes for UK Fungus Day and the International Year of Pulses. Local DASP Schools also played their part with Dorchester Middle School students explaining the strength of spider silk and helping children to make jumping beans and Manor Park providing a very popular Minecraft activity. There was also a chance to have a go at flying a mini drone, make a bath bomb and enjoy a treat with the science of candyfloss and popcorn! Thomas Hardye physics teacher Steve Shapland provided three ‘Rocket Show’ performances in the school theatre which was filled to capacity with audiences of more than 300 each time.
Ranger Russ captivated his capacity crowd with demonstrations about evolution and adaptations exhibited by 4 and 6 legged creatures and legless snakes and snails! Children loved Ruby the 5 foot long Boa Constrictor (and her skin which she shed earlier in the week). We were also very lucky to have presenter Sara Pascoe, formerly a practising clinical psychologist who has written about brain functions and devised brain games; her portions of home-made milk jelly ‘brains’ were devoured with relish and gave food for thought alongside our Biosciences STEM Club’s graphic demonstrations of the digestive process (from start to finish!).
We were also fortunate that the Dorset Police Road Safety team, South West Ambulance and Dorset & Wilts Fire and Rescue provided exciting demonstrations of the important emergency service work they do. It was good to see children having fun running towards a speed camera to see if they could break the limit! KwikFit joined up for a first time with the Police to explain about the importance of keeping car tyres and brakes in good condition.
Our Family Festival of Science showcased a multitude of fun interactive opportunities for our visitors to explore science, technology, engineering and maths beyond the curriculum. Hopefully many of the youngsters who came along will enjoy their science studies at school and may even decide to become scientists in the future. In the words of a first-time visitor who volunteered feedback “I just wanted to say that I was really impressed with the family science fair – my husband commented that it was even better than @Bristol! My children came away with bath bombs, butterflies, fossils and paintings, having snuggled snails and giggled at fire filled rockets! They both had a brilliant time and didn’t want to leave. They are both zonked out, my son cuddling his bag of fossils!!!”
We are extremely grateful to all the many people who made the afternoon such a success.